In the current New Yorker
, there's a very fine piece on Steve Carell
(tragically behind a paywall although everything else seems to be free). The key takeaway is the degree to which the big comedy hits are worked over and over:
With "Dinner for Schmucks," the script was crowd-sourced: after Paramount and Dreamworks hired several screenwriters to try to adapt the 1998 French farce "Le Diner de cons," without success, David Guion and Michael Handelman, both trained in improve, devised a structure that seemed to work. ... Guion and Handelman's draft was fussed with three times by sets of other writers, then tweaked three more times at comedy roundtables, where groups of writers gathered for about six hours to suggest new bits and jokes. Last summer, the script was given a two-week polish by Roach's writing partner, Larry Stuckey, and revised one last time by Guion and Handelman, before finally being turned over to a cast skilled in improve (with Guion and Handelman on set to suggest more alts).
Nowadays in the comedy industry, a Bucket Brigade of actors, writers and directors pitches in to punch up one another's films... They read one another's drafts, attend one another's table reads and rough cuts, and give notes. Lots and lots of notes.
The full article is definitely worth a read. Now where's my